Sunday, August 7, 2011

Is The Song In Your Head A Musical Hallucination?

Have you ever had a song in your head that kept you singing (or thinking) the lyrics (or melody) repeatedly? If you answered yes, you’re not alone.  It could be harmless, OR it could be the result of malfunctioning brain networks that normally allow us to perceive music. The brain is amazing when it functions perfectly and is even more so when it doesn’t.

Fourteen years ago, 83-year-old Reginald King began having musical hallucinations following bypass surgery.  The array of pop tunes and Christmas carols playing on his personal cerebral channel were both frightening and frustrating and could neither be turned off nor tuned down. Eventually, he was seen by Dr. Victor Aziz, one of two European researchers who had been studying this phenomenon. Dr. Aziz and research partner Dr. Nick Warner found that more than a third of their patients with musical hallucinations were deaf or hard of hearing, women more often than men, and on average 78 years of age.

Dr. Aziz believes people are more likely to hear songs (in their head) they’ve heard repeatedly. He further speculates that musical hallucinations would become more common in the future noting that, ‘”people today are awash in music from radios and television.”  Add to that the unwavering use of iPods by people of all ages and there you have the makings of a musical hallucination zoo (

So what does this mean for me (and you)?  I frequently listen to my favorite music on the radio or cd player (driving here and there), my computer (at work and home), and my beloved iPod (my commuting companion). I wonder if my ritual music habits will eventually lead me to Nirvana or to some other musical paradise…perhaps Gagavana?   There are two songs currently playing on my daily hit parade.  Click on the blue links below to see what they are.

What might make it to your hallucinatory playlist if your musical brain networks begin to malfunction?  Please comment below; I’d really LOVE to know.

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